During one of its most prosperous but also most decadent periods, Israel was warned by the prophet Amos not to forget the basic justice that God demands of all people who would call Him Lord: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream” (Amos 5:24). That message is as compelling today as it was several centuries before Christ. American Baptists know that sharing Christ means more than sharing words. Christ promised eternal life to those who believed in Him. He also set very deliberate examples of the kinds of ministry His followers needed to pursue in this life.
In a world where many suffer through no cause of their own, there is much work to be done by people of good faith. Clergy and laypersons in many churches see themselves as advocates for invoking God’s justice to God’s people. American Baptists take on productive ministries that bring hope and caring to many who might otherwise “fall through the cracks.” Food pantries, shelters for homeless persons, programs to reduce teen pregnancy and many other vital examples of outreach speak to our concern for equality and justice.
Refugee and immigrant resettlement is one noteworthy ministry that has involved local churches, regions, American Baptist Home Mission Societies and our ecumenical partners. Since 1948, American Baptists have enabled more than 75,000 people from dozens of other countries to find “a safe haven” within the U.S.–an accomplishment unmatched by any other Protestant body.
The pursuit of justice, like all else undertaken in Christ’s name, is ongoing. Conferences, workshops, and training events sponsored by regional and national boards help Baptists identify areas where God’s justice needs to be expressed. Resources that provide the theological basis and fundamental strategies for such stands are available in numerous American Baptist publications, including Judson Press books, church school curricula, and brochures and newsletters that address specific ministries.
Regional and national offices are prepared to assist local churches in the multi-faceted pursuit of justice within our society. Among the many areas of concern to American Baptists are peace, church/state issues, ecological stewardship, racial justice, women in church leadership, and the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Throughout the U.S., Christian centers and Neighborhood Action programs–often located in the hearts of major cities–witness to God’s justice by providing such programs as day care, Bible study, adult education classes, teen recreation, housing rehabilitation, health services, community organizing, employment training, family counseling, crisis intervention and much more.
Our missionaries and Baptist partners overseas often find themselves ministering in areas afflicted by civil war and political strife. Recent crises in such places as Haiti, Rwanda, South Africa, Mexico and Zaire have provided both considerable challenges and opportunities. It long has been apparent that carrying out evangelical, teaching or healing ministries cannot be separated from an unconditional advocacy for justice in the name of Christ.